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Celebrating pioneer John Rutherford’s unique Test legacy

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Western Australian cricketers were deemed irrelevant until John Rutherford helped build a bridge. The state’s first Test cricketer, debuting on Australia’s first ever tour of India in 1956, has passed away.

Australian cricket pioneer John Rutherford has passed away aged 92.

Rutherford had the honour of being the first WA player to wear the Baggy Green, becoming the 204th man to play for Australia in 1956.

The right-handed opening batsman was selected on Australia’s tour of England, Pakistan and India, playing his only Test at Brabourne Stadium in Bombay (now Mumbai).

The match ended in a draw in what was the second Test of Australia’s first ever tour of India, with Rutherford scoring 30 runs and taking 1-11 from five overs.

Although that was it at Test level, he helped pave the way for a generation of WA stars to follow, including Dennis Lillee, Graham McKenzie and the late Rod Marsh.

During Rutherford’s era, WA cricketers were viewed as irrelevant to national selectors. WA played half the number of Sheffield Shield matches as its eastern state counterparts.

However, Rutherford was in outstanding form for WA and his runs could not be ignored by selectors any more.

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Rutherford, who hailed from Bruce Rock, a small country town 243km east of Perth, averaged over 50 in first-class cricket in the 1954-55 summer and started the 1955-56 season with a century against Queensland.

Following his impressive form, Rutherford was invited to Sydney for a trial match ahead of the lengthy mid-year tour.

Despite suffering injuries in a car accident shortly before the match, he incredibly scored 113 against a Ray Lindwall led attack to book his spot on the tour of England, Pakistan and India.

Rutherford was brilliant for WA, playing 67 first-class games between 1952 and 1961, scoring 3,367 runs at 31.76, with six centuries and 15 half-centuries.

In 33 Sheffield Shield matches, he accumulated 2,200 runs at 37.93.

Rutherford’s career ended suddenly at age 31 when he suffered a stroke on the field while captaining WA in a tour match against West Indies in 1960.

In a statement, WA Cricket CEO Christina Matthews paid tribute to Rutherford after his passing.

“John Rutherford played an enormous role in placing WA Cricket on the map, at a time when the national side was dominated by players from the eastern states,” Matthews said.

“He was a talkative and charismatic personality, and his passion for cricket was infectious.”

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Joel Martelli
The only thing that Joel Martelli loves more than football (seriously, we wouldn't be surprised if he has a Wollongong Wolves tattoo) is writing about all things sports. With a Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies Degree specialising in Journalism, he spends his days uncovering breaking athlete news stories and diving deep into play-by-play strategies. We're glad that he's put his passion to the pages of Only Sports as one of our dedicated sports writers.

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